Gammelstad Church Village
Thursday, 4th November 2010 by Ian Brown
Gammelstad, in northern Sweden, is the best preserved example of a Scandinavian Church Town – a type of community that developed solely to house members of a Church congregation who lived too far away to be able to get there and back in a day.
Gammelstad’s focal point is a stone Church that was first built in the 15th century.
The surrounding town consists of hundreds of small wooden cottages, many of which date back to the 18th century. Lots of these cottages are uniform in size and shape, but regardless of their form, they are nearly all painted a rather fetching shade of red. Of the original 500 or so cottages, today around 400 remain.
Church towns and villages were once commonplace throughout Scandinavia, allowing farmers and other residents of distant rural areas to travel to their Church and stay overnight before attending Sunday services. Church towns eventually became obsolete as transportation options improved – indeed Street View shows us that the town is well served by buses these days!
The majority of the cottages are privately owned, with many people visiting only for important religious festivals. Street View shows many cottages closed up with shutters, but there are signs here that some at least appear to be occupied on an ongoing basis.
Some other notable buildings – all very near the Church – include:
The Parish Storehouse where tithes of produce were collected
The Parish Hall, which has had various uses over the centuries, including courthouse, jail and (today) a cafe
Gammelstad was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, and has a number of tourist attractions, including a historic market, museum, and guesthouse, and of course you can also visit one of the cottages.